My Piece of Paradise: Trinidad & Tobago
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Written by Roger Neckles
Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is a blessed Caribbean twin island state, situated a mere 6.8 miles off the North East Coast of Venezuela, our closest neighbours. Trinidad measures 1,841 sq mi in area with an average length of 50 mi and an average width of 37 mi. Tobago is approximately 425 miles long and 6.2 miles wide.
T&T is blessed with amazing rainforests, especially in the Northern Range of both islands, which in Trinidad runs east to west, north of the island. The highest point caps off at 3,084 feet – El Cerro del Aripo. The extent of the Northern Range mountains averages about 1,500 feet high.
Tobago’s central mountain range, the Main Ridge rising to 1,890 feet, encompasses the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere, which became a reserve in 1764. Trinidad’s picturesque rainforests are the most easterly continuation of the Andes Mountains and the identical Geology and Flora and Fauna is testament to that.
When I am in Colombia or Peru I see the exact same flora and topography as in Trinidad. Many times I have said, whilst there, “These mountains are exactly like Trinidad!” My Colombian, Ecuadorian and Peruvian friends say the same thing too, when they visit T&T! What separates T&T’s unique Flora and Fauna from the other Caribbean islands, are these identical mainland characteristics.
Trinidad’s lush rainforests is what prompted me to purchase a 10 acre estate at the foothills of T&T’s highest mountain, up in the rainforest valley of the Heights of Aripo. I christened my estate “Toucan Lodge”. It’s the one spot on earth I have full control of my solitude when I need it – if I don’t want to see another human being I won’t.
But I love to invite special guests, friends and family there. I’ve not gotten my 2 room concrete structure ready for sleeping over yet, or vacationing when I extend it, but I’ll get started as the funds arrive. The structure of Toucan Lodge is just a shelter, with no fixtures or anything, but it takes nothing away from the beauty of the estate – far from it!
It’s all about the stunning neotropical birds, such as Turquoise, Bay-headed, White-shouldered and Silver-beaked Tanagers, Trinidad and Violacious Euphonias, Crested Oropendolas, Little Tinamou, Collared, Green-backed and Guianan Trogons, Trinidad Motmot, White-flanked Antwrens, Blue Dacnis, Spectacled Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy Owls, Blue-headed Parrots, White Hawk, Ruby Topaz, Tuffted Coquette, Long-billed Starthroat Hummingbirds and of course Channel-billed Toucans, to name a few (and some very mind-soothing vistas!)
To date, I have 144 bird species casually recorded, primarily from just 2 of the 10 acres where I spend the most time birding, relaxing – letting the birds come to me instead of chasing them all over the place. My kind of birding, when I just want to shed the stress or enjoy a peaceful moment with a cool friend or two!
This is one of my top 5 most stimulating spots on our planet, seriously! I don’t take many people up there, as I like to go at my own pace. I would not like to slow people down or feel obligated to rush through the property and not saver the peacefulness, interrupted only but the incredibly delightful crescendo, of rainforest bird song.
But most of my friends who invite themselves along (lol) get the mood of Toucan Lodge the moment they set foot on it. When they leave, their smiles nearly touch their ears – they are thrilled, rejuvenated and ready to take on the world again!
T&T is truly the Caribbean’s best kept secret for avid and pro Nature Photographers and Birdwatchers and is considered the primary stepping stone to Central and South American Eco-tourism adventures. If you’ve never visited any Latin American country before, T&T is where to get started. Our language is English, and the accessibility, bounty of birds everywhere, vastly varying habitats, great beaches and marine life, is all abundant in our Twin Island Paradise!
– Roger Neckles
Roger Neckles is one of the Caribbean’s most prominent nature photographers. His award-winning work has appeared in National Geographic, Natural History, Audubon, Wild Bird, Birding, Birdwatchers Digest, Birders World and Caribbean Beat, as well as in films produced by the BBC, Discovery Channel and National Geographic Today.
Join Roger Neckles for a Tropical Bird Photography Workshop, held at the world-famous Asa Wright Nature Center in T&T! A week of hands-on field instruction, short classroom sessions, and 40 species of birds before breakfast. Learn more HERE!